Friday, May 30, 2008


Civil society organisations have disputed the benefits of the boom in commodities, saying that farmers and mining communities which are fundamental in the extraction and production of the commodities are missing out on the benefits.
At a press conference on the theme: “The commodity Boom-Civil Society Speaks out”, Mr Mamadou Cissokho, the leader of West African Farmers; Mrs Hannah Owusu-Koranteng, a representative of mining communities in Ghana, and Mr Alistair Smith, a banana trade expert, were unanimous in asking for space to participate in policy and alternatives to policies that would enhance the lives of those at the forefront of producing the commodities.
A publication of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) titled, “Development and Globalisation: Facts and Figures”, shows that economic performance in Africa relies on commodity revenues, with growth positively correlated with trade balances.
The publication says that since 2003, “steep improvements of trade brought sizeable gains in the domestic income in several countries”, with expanding domestic demand, investments in extractive industries, growth rates and trade surpluses.
The commodity boom and its positive impact on the economies of some developing countries are featuring on the agenda at UNCTAD XII.
However, civil society organisations said the benefits being realised were limited and not spread out for hardworking farmers and communities in mining concessions to benefit and had called on UNCTAD to consider the issue and ensure an equitable spread of the benefits, as well as sustainable extraction and production of the commodities.
They noted that rather than improving the lot of the farmers and the communities lying within the concessions where some of these commodities were extracted, livelihoods were rather being threatened and destroyed.
The three representatives said current global challenges of price hikes in energy and inputs, among other things, were worsening an already bad situation.
In their submissions on solutions, they called on UNCTAD XII to consider farmers and communities lying within concessions where minerals were exploited as primary investors.
They noted that mining and oil exploration, like other commodities, had periods of extreme benefits and also periods of no benefits at all and that had to be considered so that indigenous people would not be left out.
They also called for dialogue and partnerships with UNCTAD, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Common Fund for Commodities in the equitable sharing of the benefits of the commodity boom.
“Africans must question the paradoxes of development and, as electors of leaders, change the situation for development to be really beneficial,” Mr Cissokho said, while Mrs Owusu-Koranteng pointed to the need for developing countries to do some self introspection, prioritise their needs and wants and focus on their achievements.
“No country has developed another; the people of a particular country develop the country themselves and we have to seize the opportunity now,” she said.
Mr Smith emphasised dialogue in the sharing of the benefits of the commodity boom, saying that was crucial for developing countries.
The Moderator, Ms Liz Dodd of Traidcraft, a policy advocacy non-governmental organisation, said the challenges needed an “ambitious, assertive and innovative UNCTAD”.


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